Women throughout the Jewish world have been creating rituals and observances specifically geared to their interests and needs. One of the most popular is the resuscitation of rosh chodesh [new moon] celebrations, an observance that was part of the women’s domain even in ancient days.
Since such celebrations are based upon minhag (custom) rather than on prescribed behavior, women have displayed enormous creativity in reclaiming these observances. Programs range from traditional text study to the reading of feminist literature to chanting and fire ceremonies. The choice is highly personal and sometimes experimental.
While the idea of preparing a monthly activity might seem daunting, the ever-increasing number of successful rosh chodesh groups reinforces the fact that the benefits far outweigh the difficulties.
How to begin?
- Assess your needs. How many women are interested, including those who might be interested, but not every month. Be prepared to start with even modest numbers, and if women like what they see, word will spread.
- Have one or more organizational meetings to discuss the possibilities. You might want to have these meetings in homes rather than the synagogue.
- Be inventive. What interests your group? Since you are the creators of your celebration, your choices of programmatic materials, activities and methods can be flexible.
- Include different demographic groups since the interests of Jewish women often transcend age, educational and professional backgrounds.
- Study a particular genre of classical Jewish literature: midrash, Mishnah, selections from parshiyot that are read in any given month
- Study some facet of a holiday that occurs that month, such as rituals and/or liturgy, preparations and food traditions
- Monthly discussions on a pre-distributed text (or not). You might select a single topic for the year and invite different participants to lead the discussion each month
- Work on a social action project selected by your group
- Music, dance, movement. Some groups begin with singing and then move to another activity. Some groups have members bring drums, flutes and bells
- Torah/Yoga groups integrate movement and Jewish text to energize participants physically and spiritually
Most importantly, remember that the beauty of a rosh chodesh celebration is its inclusion of all types of expression and experimentation in an environment that is receptive, creative and non-threatening.
You will find, in a very short time that you are looking forward to your monthly gatherings!